An Open Letter to my Cyber Bully

Dear Cyber Bully,

On January 29th, I had the extreme pleasure of being attacked on your tumblr.

I’ve been both mocked or bullied before (hey, elementary school, how are you?) but I have to say that this is the first time it has come from someone I have never even interacted with before. We may have been in the same grade, but we haven’t said so much as said “excuse me” to each other when walking down the crowded high school halls.

While I often find that turning the other cheek is effective when someone is heckling me face-to-face, this internet attack is something new. And seeing as my blog traffic has gone up a bit and I’ve gained quite a few new subscribers in the days following the attack, seemingly as the result of your post, I figure you deserve a response.

Let’s start with reading your post in its entirety. The link is here, and I’ve posted screenshots of it below, in case you ever decide–as you should–to remove it.

(A Note to My Non-Cyber-Bully Readers: This girl uses plenty of profanity, so if you aren’t a fan of rude language, please feel free to skip it, and I’ll address specific parts and censor her cursing in the rest of my post.)

Ignoring the bad spelling and grammar, I’d like to begin by pointing out that your entire post seems to be inspired by your concern that my blog has recently been better than yours. My years of being bullied have proven that in most cases, malice results from personal insecurities, and this case appears to be no exception.

In your post, you chose to refer to me as Luna Lovegood. First of all, I’m quite flattered that you’ve chosen to refer to me by a pseudonym. Most of the time, bullies just go straight for my name, and don’t even allow me to have a scrap of privacy to prevent additional mockings by outside observers.

Next, you clearly do not understand your Harry Potter references. When you’re attacking people, it’s best to compare someone to something or someone else who has many bad qualities. Luna Lovegood is about as far off the mark as you could get.

Luna is, in fact, a hero. I love being compared to someone who does not fear criticism for always being themselves, makes great sacrifices for their friends, fearlessly stands up to evil, and is known for her kindness, loyalty, and intelligence. Being called Luna is a compliment, and I thank you for it.

Furthermore, you know the girl who plays her in the movies? Evanna Lynch? I admire her just as much as the character. She’s a wonderful role model for girls everywhere. You probably didn’t know that she too suffered from anorexia and that I find her recovery and later success incredibly inspiring.

And you surely don’t know about her involvement in the Harry Potter community. She helps the Harry Potter Alliance raise money and awareness about anorexia and other problems that plague the world. Just check out this article she wrote! She also corresponds with her fans on Twitter. She goes to conferences and is a fan first, an actress second. There is just no way that comparing me to Luna Lovegood could be considered an insult.

Moving along, you call me our grade’s “basket case.” Ouch! At least “basket case” is a little more creative than crazy. You’re separating yourself from the crowd, and as the title of your tumblr suggests, you’re all about individuality.

However, seeing as you’ve chosen to go after me for being different than the norm, it seems like your rejection of conformity is a little hypocritical. But we all have a little work to do on that front. I know that sometime I end up doing what’s popular instead of what I actually like.

I’m sure that you’re choosing to mock me and my struggle with mental illness because you might also be feeling upset. You’re stuck at a college you hate, and you seem annoyed by almost every aspect of being there. It’s terrifying and frustrating to feel so trapped. I’m not at your college, so I can’t speak to your experience, but I can say that I know what that feels like to be stuck in place that I’ve hated and can’t escape.

At a mental hospital you can’t even take some time for yourself, text friends, or use a computer, and it’s not exactly the place where you go to learn or make friends. Six months of my Junior year were spent in a partial hospitalization program or an outpatient facility. I hated being away from my friends in high school, and I lost the ability to participate in many of the activities I loved. It was often easy to be cynical and judgmental. On the good days of feeling trapped, you’re frustrated by your limitations and miss your previous life, and on the bad ones, it becomes impossible to see any positive aspects of your imprisonment and everyone who you interact with there is horrid.

However, being under a lot of emotional pain is not a free pass to be cruel to others. Every time I felt particularly frustrated, I became, as I dubbed it, “viciously nice” and complimented everyone and everything I even slightly liked and tried to list the positives of being stuck in my situation. The angrier I was, the nicer I outwardly became, and when I did that, the bad feelings had a way of quickly vanishing. I realized that there were things I actually really liked about the experiences. It’s a bit of an unconventional coping mechanism, but it quickly became my favorite and most effective. Perhaps you might find it helpful, as well.

In reference to calling me a basket case, you say, “Maybe that’s a rude thing to say, but we’ve all seen that I clearly have no problem with being rude. B@#!#$* should just be tougher. Enuff said.”

Once again, my suspicion is that perhaps when you write that people need to be tougher, you’re talking to yourself. I bet that you feel guilty and a little weak to have the emotional reactions that you do. You’ve probably been hurt by other people’s rudeness before and wished that you were strong enough to handle it without feeling upset.

Rudeness is often painful for the victim, and it is okay for you to let yourself feel hurt. The longer you bury your feelings, the more you will perseverate on whatever instigated them. However, if you let yourself cry or talk to someone about it, you’ll feel better. Stop pretending to be an unfeeling wall. Everyone has their own insecurities and emotions. You are never alone, and it doesn’t make you a better person for trying to ignore your feelings.

But for goodness sakes, stop taking your own negative feelings out on me. The only person who can make you feel better is yourself. I promise that the more you deride me, the more guilty you will feel. You’re clearly still thinking about your post, because you went back to edit and remove the link to my blog.

Perhaps it might be time to apologize and stop spending so much time blogging about what you don’t like about other people. Really, the world is a much kinder and healthier place when you focus on the positive things that surround you. Listing the things I love and what I’m grateful for has helped significantly with my own recovery, and it might also help you rid yourself of some of your anger and sadness.

Let’s continue to the part where you say that my “life was so entertaining and eventful to [everyone] in high school.” Of course, I could interpret this as being highly offensive. I’d hate to know that a lot of people were mocking me behind my back, but I recently realized that this means that you and everyone else who was fascinated by my life actually cared about me, even if it was in a very backwards and bizarre manner. What I did mattered, and it’s nice to know that I’ll be remembered. I’d much prefer to be known than be considered just another person to pass in the hall.

You go onto assume that I would have great stories to tell! I certainly do have your attention! How nice! But I’m not sure what kind of stories you’d like.

Maybe you’d love to hear about my experiences with psychotropic medications, different types of therapies, and mental hospitals. If you want to take a look at that, I’d suggest you go through the archives, as there’s plenty of those types of posts there. I’ve got a handy search bar and two different ways to access the archives on the right side of the page. I’ll even link to a post about that right here.

I’m not writing as much about that now because it’s the past. Many of these things happened years ago. I’m not the same very sick person I was in 2009. The best part about illness is healing, and that’s what’s been happening to me for quite a while now.

But if you aren’t interested in posts like those, how about you vote in my weekly reader-selected topic poll? That way, I’ll end up writing exactly what the majority of readers wants to read.

Then, you say, in reference to my blog, “what you’ll find is a third person account of her life through a semi-non-fictional character with a pointless alias.” Third-person account? Semi-non-fictional character? Pointless alias? How much of my blog did you read?

Sure, I sometimes refer to myself in the third person, but it’s only when Ella’s joking. Also, this is really me. I’m not a character. If you really knew me, you would know that what I write here is an absolutely truthful “account” of my life. When I talk about getting my hair cut or getting a whisk stuck between my teeth at the age of ten, I’m not lying. How about the next time you come home, I’ll show you my new fringe, the tiny gap in my teeth from the whisk tines, and maybe even the whisk itself. Would you believe me then?

But I think that the best part of that sentence is the end. You tell me that I write with “no embellishment or flare at all.” After I got over having the quality of my writing insulted, I had to laugh.

First, “flare?” Really, “flare?” When did I become a sinking ship sending up emergency signals or a motorist at night with a broken down car on the edge of the highway? I may be wrong, but from here on out, I’m just going to assume that you mean “flair.”

Second, I wonder whether you have ever seen the movie Office Space. Well, check out this quote:

Joanna (Jennifer Aniston): You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?
Stan, Chotchkie’s Manager: Well, I thought I remembered you saying that you wanted to express yourself.
Joanna: Yeah. You know what, yeah, I do. I do want to express myself, okay. And I don’t need 37 pieces of flair to do it.
[flips off Stan]

I, too, want to express myself, and I don’t need your definition of “embellishment” or “flare” to do it. Besides, who needs embellishment? The way you say it, it sounds like you want me to lie and change the facts so that all of my posts seem grandiose. That just isn’t going to happen. I write what’s true, and if it doesn’t live up to your level of dramatic, then so be it. I like my honesty, and I’m sticking with it.

Next, you say that my blog is “so boring.” It’s nice to see that you require both bold and italics to describe the quality of my blog. I can almost hear your eye roll.

However, you do try to put in some facts to back up your argument. You ask, “who the ^&*$ wants to read about the day-to-day life of someone whose late night excitement is detailed as emotional support from their cat and enjoys spreading the news about Starbucks cakes?”

Alright.

As of right now, I have 59 subscribers. I’m not even counting the people who don’t have WordPress accounts. Including those readers, I have upwards of 75 people regularly checking my blog. They’re kind, empathetic readers who care about what I have to say. They like to read what I write. It’s worth some of their precious time.

Furthermore, I got 21,700 hits just from January to the end of November last year. That’s about twice the number of people at your school, including all of the graduate students. This blog is popular and has a loyal following.

But you also did something that I really don’t like. You were very selective about the facts you chose to use. Of course my blog is going to look boring if your make it look like I only talk about cats and baked goods! But you failed to mention any of my book reviews, the sermon I wrote and gave at my church this past spring, my anorexia, free-range parenting, and traveling posts, or funny childhood stories. What about my creative writing? I’ve won awards for it. Those posts I just linked to have gotten dozens and dozens of hits. Finally, the award-winning author Laini Taylor reads and enjoys my blog. People like her don’t just read and praise anything.

Additionally, I heard on good authority that for a while you had upwards of seven cats. Wouldn’t you of all people understand the importance of loving your pets?

However, it’s your next paragraph that perhaps confuses me the most. You say “listen, I’m not trying to undeservedly offend by making personal attacks.” How on earth is calling me a “basket case” not a personal attack? I would love to hear how questioning my sanity isn’t personal.

Let’s take a look at the rest of that paragraph, as well:

“Luna Lovegood clearly has some larger scale problems to cope with, for which everyone has sympathy, but seriously, you are begging for backlash when you start posting pretentious quasi-intellectual b%#*$@!& on the internet for everyone to see. She wants to be a published author; if she can’t take my literary criticism then there’s literally no way she can make it in the real world.”

Great! I’m thrilled that you say that people have sympathy for me, but here it sounds like you are pitying me. Trust me, I can hold my own. I’ve been doing it for years, and if you knew me at all, you’d know that. But we’ve already covered the fact that we’ve never even had a conversation or shared any experience prior to your post.

What about the rest of that sentence? I’m not sure how I’m “begging” for backlash. I rarely write about controversial topics. And how is anything I’m writing “quasi-intellectual?” I don’t talk about academic or abstract matters very often, which the last time I checked, is the definition of intellectualism.

I mean, I like to write in complete sentences and use good grammar, and I’m pretty smart, but I don’t think that “quasi-intellectual” is the best way to describe my blog. Many people have blogs similar to mine, and I have yet to see them receive unwarranted attacks. In fact, you’re the only person who has ever said this about Eleanor Called Ella.

I understand that putting things on the internet leaves me open to all sorts of descent, and I’m ready to deal with deserved criticism, but I fail to see how anything you’ve written is constructive, deserved, and not cyber-bullying.

And yes, you are right, I do want to be a published author. I want that very much. I devote many, many hours of every day to writing. I treat it like my full-time job. And I also know that I will need to be able to take negative reviews of my works. But what you are doing is not, by any extension of the word, “literary criticism.”

Literary criticism is the study and interpretation of literature. I’m frankly very flattered that you would insinuate that my blog is literature, but let me be the first person to tell you that it’s not. It’s the rare post that I think is good enough for publication, and even then, those posts would need heavy revisions.

I just keep a blog for fun. I can fool around with words here and experiment. I get to chat with the often anonymous internet. I don’t have high aspirations of perfection or literary merit, so you’re going to need to choose a different word.

I am, however, open to all sorts of constructive critiques. If you need an example of how to offer that, how about you read this post, Let’s Go Dancing!, and take a look at Sadie’s comment. What she wrote is helpful and good criticism, and sounds like what you meant to say to in that sentence. Unfortunately, what you’ve actually done is both bullying and pointless. It’s like you’re pointing at my blog and screaming, “THIS SUCKS!” without backing anything up with fact. Imagine if you did that at an art fair or a poetry reading. You’d look like the insane one.

But if you really do mean literary criticism, where are the themes, symbolism, motifs, and characters you find unsatisfying in my work? And if you just want to offer a review, what specifically bothers you about my posts? Please, tell me. That’s one of the reasons why I have a comments section.

If you do offer me a proper constructive critique, I can assure you that I will be able to take it. I’ll legitimately consider what you have to say and will probably edit the post to reflect your suggestions. Taking constructive criticism is how you actually do make it in the real world of writing. In fact, there are people called editors, whose entire job is instructing writers on how to improve their work. I’m totally ready for criticism in the “real world.”

After that, you start to wrap up your post and say, “at least have the decency to make your life sound funny or dramatic or substantive so people will care to read what you have to say.”

But we already covered that one, haven’t we? If you’ve forgotten, all you need to do is scroll up to see all those stats and facts I gave you about the people who read my blog. People seem to find me funny and substantive.

And isn’t substantive kind of the opposite of dramatic when it’s used in this sense? I’d have to be as hypocritical as you to be able to handle that level of irony.

Then, to end your post, you build yourself and your blog up. You write, “HEY WAIT! Is that what I’ve been doing the past three months?” and announce that you’re back to blogging regularly and have your priorities in check.

Hey, we all need a personal pep talk sometimes. I often feel bad about my writing and need to remind myself of my successes before sitting down to work. Visualizing success is really helpful. Athletes do it all the time. But I have never done it by publicly writing about how horrible someone else is and how everything I produce is better. I don’t even say things like that. I’d suggest that next time you need some motivation, you instead tell your friend Rosey that you’d like some encouragement and skip the whole bullying other people stage.

Honestly, what you just did in your malicious, bullying post was really very sad. It tells me that you feel so insecure about yourself and your own writing that you can’t even do positive self-talk, and I’m very sorry that you’re that unhappy. I also read some of your other tumblr posts, and many of them are just as mean as this one. It must be rough feeling trapped at a college you hate. I’d be miserable in a situation like that, too.

Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about finding a therapist or someone else you can work with until the school year is over. Boston has loads of psychologists near campus or easily accessed via the T. The student health center will also have free options if you can’t afford someone outside. If you have questions about different styles of therapies, I’d be happy to suggest one or give you more information. Click on “Contact Ella” at the top of the page to shoot me an email. I’ve always found working with therapists to be very helpful, and plenty of people see them even if they don’t have an acute mental illness.

Finally, please stop being so mean to the people you mention on your tumblr. Think about how it would feel like to have the tables turned. Try changing every “Luna Lovegood” in the post you wrote about me to your own name. How would you feel then? It would suck, right?

I am not afraid to tell you that I cried when I saw what you wrote. Knowing that someone disliked me and my writing enough to devote an entire post to deriding my blog was incredibly upsetting. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve been mocked by a classmate, but I was so hopeful that now that high school is long over, the heckling and bullying would have stopped. I thought that being legal adults would mean that we had the maturity not to be nasty to one another. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

I know that this post isn’t going to affect every bully or malicious person in the world, but if it makes you reconsider the things you have said and written, then it’s done its job.

And if you view my response as an invitation to start a giant internet debate, then you clearly don’t understand what I’ve written here at all.

Cheers,

Ella

If you want to check out my tumblr where I never cyber bully anyone, here’s the link: http://emleng93.tumblr.com/.

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17 thoughts on “An Open Letter to my Cyber Bully

  1. Miss Nonconformist needs to realize that being petty and nasty is not being very nonconformist. It turns out to be pretty common out there in the world and on the internet.

    And she’s not even that good at it.

  2. You’re justified in your anger, but it’s unacceptable that you used the tragic death of a classmate as ammunition in your post. You may have couched it in gentle, sympathetic language, but you are not fooling anyone – it was condescending, it was vicious, it pretended sympathy, it crossed a line and it was part of an attack that you continue just a few paragraphs on. You have every right to be angry, but this post was a mistake, even if it is a mistake for which your readers can be sympathetic. You should remove it and go back to what you used to do.

    • I don’t think it was pretend sympathy, that isn’t how I read it at all…and I don’t think it was ammunition either, it seemed, to me, to be more of an offer of a reason, some sort of an explanation and an assurance that while she understands(and lists similar experiences) it isn’t okay to use grief as an excuse to be deliberately cruel. I think that maybe you, “A Reader” missed the point somehow.

    • I think that this post makes it very clear that I sympathize with her emotions and motives, but that it’s also unacceptable to post such malicious things on the internet. I don’t know how else I could have written this to make it anymore obvious that those were my only goals.

      I’m very shocked and offended that you think that I’m using death as ammunition, being condescending and vicious, and displaying false sympathy. That would be cruel and heartless, and if you read the post again, I think you’ll see that neither of those accusations are true.

      I only mention the classmate’s death when I’m saying that I understand that she’s in pain and that it is okay to feel that way. Like I said above, I’ve recently lost an uncle and friends to sudden deaths. I’m not going to joke around or use death in a cavalier manner. Grief really, really hurts. I know that firsthand, and I take discussing death and emotional pain very seriously. I would never begrudge anyone their emotions, and certainly not someone who seems as unhappy as this girl.

      Perhaps it’s because you’re reading this and not hearing my intonation, but this girl truly does have my sympathy. What she’s going through is rough. I’ve also dealt with a lot of the things that seem to be bothering her, so believe me when I tell you that I am not being flippant.

      I was never angry about what she wrote. I was hurt. I felt diminished, mocked, and hated. I wanted to let her know how it felt from my side of the table, that it was cruel, but that she also has my sympathy for her emotions.

      Finally, why would I want to be vicious or condescending? That’s what I had just received from her. Why on earth would I want to turn around and be just as hurtful? I would never do that. This was an attempt to approach the situation from a kind, empathetic, and yet still disapproving standpoint.

      I’m very sorry that you read into this the wrong way, and I hope that no one else also has this reaction.

  3. What was written about you was absolutely not acceptable, but you have no right to bring the death of a friend into this matter and assume it to be the reason for a personal attack against you. This has nothing to do with him regardless of how genuine your sympathy is or whether or not you have been through similar situations.

    • The post has since been edited to remove all mention of the death, as I had a conversation with a girl close to that classmate and it said that it upset her greatly. I never intended to cause emotional distress to anyone by writing this post, and I’m sorry that people reacted in that manner.

      I addressed the situation in a way that I would be comfortable reading if I were the girl who bullied me. Like with any tragic event, we all have different responses, and my reactions to the sudden deaths I’ve experienced is different from yours. I find it to be helpful to talk very frankly and openly about death and acknowledge its effects on those still alive. It’s what’s been emphasized as healthy in all of my time in therapy, so I made the assumption that it was also the right way to mention it in my post.

      I spent a lot of time considering how I would write my response, and I didn’t take writing my post lightly. I was not trying to be cavalier. I genuinely thought I was being appropriate and writing with empathy, and I still think that I did exactly that.

      I still honestly believe that death could certainly be a contributing factor her unhappiness and thus affected the insecurity that led to her writing her post, and I will not retract that belief. I also firmly believe that once something transpires, it is acceptable for it be acknowledged and discussed by anyone who knows that the event took place. Anyone has the right to mention it. Additionally, there is a distinct difference between referencing the effects of death and disparaging the person who died, and I did not do the latter. I still don’t believe that I did anything wrong in this post.

      However, as I mentioned at the start of this reply to your comment, I have edited the post so as not to cause any pain to other readers who felt upset to reminded of the death.

  4. Excellent response. I believe bullying and putting down others is a result of jealousy and low self esteem. Bullying others make the bully feel important, if only in their own minds. Most people see bullying as bullying. They sympathize with the person being bullied, not the person bullying. No one thinks the bullying person is important, they think they’re cruel, ignorant, and childish. Unless, of course, you yourself are petty, with self esteem issues.

    I know that you handle criticism very well. If this bully truly wanted to criticize your work, it would have been done so in a much more mature manner. But this person sounds like they are only jealous. Their self-esteem has dropped because they realize just how good you are, so they had to take it out on you.

    You didn’t sink to that level. You responded with honestly, even feeling some sympathy for the girl. It makes me proud to call you my friend.

  5. Oh my gosh Ella, you’re a fan of Evanna Lynch?? I’ve read her essay in “Dear Mr. Potter” to absolute shreds (also her Twitter is kind of awesome.) Honestly, the pseudonym this rather dull girl picked could not have been better.

    Have you seen “The Women of Harry Potter” on the special features of the most recent HP DVD? About Luna, Jo Rowling says “she has that unbelievably rare quality of actually not giving a damn about what anyone else thinks of her. Now, if we as adults say honestly how many people we’ve known like that, I think very many of us would say, uh, NONE. And Luna’s like that. She doesn’t actually care. She’s so comfortable with being different she’s fearless… It’s sometimes very difficult as a woman to say well, actually this is who I am and I’m not going to pretend otherwise — but that’s the only way to be truly happy and that’s what I would say to girls particularly.”

    So this girl has actually picked (I think) the most admirable female character she could have. And it kind of says a lot about her that she did that (for heaven’s sake, look at her blog title!) She’s uncomfortable enough with herself that she has to play games of feigning superiority in order to try and feel better about her blog. That’s just really pathetic, though sad for her I suppose.

    • I am SUCH a fan of Evanna Lynch! She’s amazing! I haven’t gotten my hands on “Dear Mr. Potter” yet, but I hope to soon! I keep eyeing it in bookstores. I buy way too many books as is, but I can never refuse a book about Harry Potter, especially when you review it so highly. I’ll probably pick it up next Tuesday!

      Yes, I did see that special feature! Jo Rowling is fantastic!

      Thank you so much for your support, Libby, and for being such a loyal reader of my blog. I appreciate both so much.

      • You should definitely read it! And tell me what you think of that letter!

        And you’re welcome. I love your blog because it’s so honest and so true to being 18 and a writer/bookworm (both of which I am) and making the most out of life despite the bad things; it’s inspiring and hopeful and I love all those things about it. So basically, just keep writing. :) (Not that anyone could stop you!!)

  6. I think Ella’s comments about the death of this friend is actually incredibly understanding. She’s not just looking at this blog post to say, “Wow, this girl was a bitch to me, so I’m going to be a bitch back.” She took time to consider where the bullying and anger was coming from and respond to it in a rational and sympathetic manner. Even if that isn’t the source for the post, I think it showed compassion and fairness. Ella is my hero!

    • Thank you very much, Lucy. I felt that it was time to take a stand after years of hearing similar things from former classmates. I only wish that I had done this sooner. Perhaps it would have made people reconsider writing posts like hers.

      However, I still struggle with how to combine being assertive with Matthew 5:39. I do not want to also become antagonistic or grossly disobey the Bible’s teachings towards nonviolence and forgiveness.

      • You can assert your case without descending to the level of trading punches, which I think is where Matthew is coming from. And you can now consider the source of any further needles from her, and not let them wound you.

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